Friday, June 27, 2008

Spring in Boise

Jill Kuraitis, at, challenged us to come up with inventions to help suburban homeowners get ready for summer. She threw down the gaunlet with her automatic gutter cleaner and dog hair sucker.

I don't live in the suburbs and I don't own a home, but I realized that I do need a couple of things.

Unencumbered with a home in the suburbs, or a home anywhere, for that matter, I have no use for a gutter robot or pet hair sucker. I have, however, recently upgraded from a north-facing basement efficiency apartment to a second story, south- and west-facing version with interior walls. My windows look out into apple trees.

Winter from my aerie is snowy and still; summer is green and full of life. A magpie arrived this spring and objects to the cat that has stolen his black and white gang colors. The bird shadows the cat much of the day, taunting and jabbering at it. The cat half-heartedly climbs a tree after the magpie, knowing the bird will soon fly away. Children play sweetly on the swings nearby, not yet in junior high and old enough to carry weapons.

I look forward to the riot of pink blooms during apple blossom time. Early in the morning, I throw open the balcony door to the spring breeze and remember the cool summer mornings of my Minnesota childhood. Late afternoons, I revisit the Peace Corps in Africa under the blast of the western sun. I can relive much of my life each day through the temperature extremes of a Boise spring.

Just one thing is missing from my practically perfect digs: a Neighbor noIse eXcluder, a “NIX”. Pink apple blossom time is also the opening of Window Season. Every evening the downstairs neighbors return home after nursing hurt feelings, imagined slights, broken hearts, and crushed dreams for eight hours at their respective jobs. They are game for another round. They open the windows and drown out the children playing and the magpie taunting the cat. The arguments continue into the night.

Shouts and shrieks wake me from a deep sleep into a cold sweat. My lizard brain is awake first, trying to protect me from the danger, but what is it? A saber-toothed tiger? An earthquake? A fire? The rest of my brain awakens and discovers that it is almost midnight. There is time for another round of neighbor vs. neighbor before I fall asleep again. My NIX Noise Collecting and Canceling System would collect “YOU DID TOO!”, “I DID NOT”, “YES, YOU DID!!”, “NO, I DIDN’T!!”, “DID TOO!!!”, “DID NOT!!!” and turn it into birds chirping in the rustling palm trees outside my beach house on Kaua’i. In the background, ice cubes clink in the gin and tonics on the pool boy’s serving tray.

My NIX would collect the names and obscenities the neighbors hurl at each other and turn them into…you know that bird that’s always singing in the background in Discovery Channel shows about the wildebeest crossing the Mara River? That place where the crocodiles eat the wildebeest that don’t break their necks careening down the steep slope into the river or get trampled scrambling out the other side? Those birds with the crazy cascading song that sounds like Curly in the Three Stooges? They really exist! My NIX would turn the names and obscenities into their song, filling my apartment with melodies of the African Bush.

And the video game roar of race cars, the BLAM BLAM BLAM of small weapons fire, the RATATATATATATAT of machine guns, and the KABLOOOM! of heaven knows what would be turned into the ebb and flow music of a Colorado River rapid, lulling me to sleep after an ABC (Alive Below Crystal [Rapid]) Party on a river trip through Grand Canyon.

I would pay extra for an add-on that would replay the collected bits for the neighbors at random times during the night, at full volume.

To complement my NIX, I would also like a GREAT (Give me moRE of thAT) System that would create more of the neighbor across the landing that brings over the World’s Best Potato Salad, Out of This World Stew, and chicken breast with bread crumbs cooked just so. And I would not object to more of the refugee family that not only feeds me home made bread, fried meat and rice dishes, and apricots, but also lets me spend evenings sitting on their couch watching TV in a language I do not understand. It will have to do until I can get my NIX installed.